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Alaska's Black History: Bettye Davis

Bettye Jean (Ivory) Davis on the campaign trail.
Erik Hill
Anchorage Daily News
Bettye Jean (Ivory) Davis on the campaign trail.

Alaska Black History Notes

Bettye Jean Davis was the first Black woman elected to the Alaska State House of Representatives and the first Black elected to the Alaska State Senate.

With degrees in nursing and social work, she moved to Alaska with her husband Troy Davis in 1972. She worked as a nurse and social worker at the Alaska Psychiatric Institute and the state’s Department of Health and Social Services.

Davis also served on the Anchorage School Board in the 1980s and 90s. She then ran for state house and served three terms from 1991 to 1997. She lost a bid for the State Senate, but served on the Anchorage School Board again.

In 2000, she was elected to the State Senate and served until 2012. During her six years in the House and twelve years in the Senate, Davis was known as the “Conscience of the Legislature” due to her focus on education, foster care, mental health, suicide prevention, juvenile justice, child and family welfare, and other social issues.

Pastor Alonzo Patterson was close to Bettye and her husband, Troy.

“ She was socially-oriented and children-directed. Politics were kind of a second thing for her. She sought to make sure that the people she represented by color, cause, and convictions were a part of the broad space of Alaska.”

Elected to the school board for a third time in 2013, Davis served until she resigned her seat in 2018 due to health concerns.

Davis served on numerous boards and commissions during her public career, among them the Governor’s Commission on Youth and Justice (1995–1996), Governor’s Task Force on Tolerance (2001–2002), and Alaska Healthcare Strategy Council (2007–2008). She was also a member of the National Association of Black Elected Legislative Women, the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Foundation of Alaska.She was inducted into the Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame in 2010.

Davis died in 2018. The Alaska legislature named the Health and Social Services Committee Room in the Capitol Building after her. In 2021, the Anchorage School District renamed East High School in her honor.




Robyne began her career in public media news at KUAC, coiling cables in the TV studio and loading reel-to-reel tape machines for the radio station.